Tuesday 12 December 2017

Television... Imelda may be nice, but she’s dull

The Imelda May Show, RTE One
* The Day They Dropped The Bomb, UTV Ireland
* Sharknado 3, ScyFy

Homegrown: Swords popstars Kodaline joined Imelda May on RTE's 'The Imelda May Show'. Photo: Andres Poveda
Homegrown: Swords popstars Kodaline joined Imelda May on RTE's 'The Imelda May Show'. Photo: Andres Poveda
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

In the interests of full disclosure, I should probably point out that I like Imelda May.

In fact, I think everyone likes Imelda May.

A woman with a back story that is, unfortunately, far more interesting than most of the music she has produced, there are certain unwritten rules when it comes to writing about her.

Apparently, every piece must, by Papal diktat, include the phrase ‘Liberty Belle’ because, y’know, she’s from the Liberties in the heart of Dublin. The fact that a working-class Dub can make something of themselves still seems to be a source of constant amazement to the predominantly middle class media which looks on May as if she is a dog that walks — it’s not that she does it well, it’s the fact that she does it at all which seems to entrance them.

But at some point in the last few years — and we can probably thank Gay Byrne, who hails from roughly the same area as May — she seems to have become the go-to girl for RTE.

That’s not a bad thing, of course.

After all, when most performers her age seemed obsessed with getting Louis Walsh’s phone number and signing up for his particular form of evil pop Gulag (and I say that as a mate of the Mayo maestro), she was on the road in England, serving her apprenticeship in the back of a van and playing the kind of dive bars that would make the average X Factor contestant thkweam and thkweam until they made themselves thick.

So, in other words, Imelda May is one of the good guys and someone who, on paper at least, is most definitely on the side of the angels. The problem is that music, like football, is not played on paper.

Her apparent ubiquity on our screens — she presents! She does ads for the Credit Union! She always gives good guest when she appears on someone else’s show! — means she is in clear and present danger of becoming RTE’s new Carrie Crowley.

The old Crowley, you may remember, was once seen as equally golden by the Montrose mandarins until, apparently on a whim, the people who gave her so much work decided that... she was getting too much work. She was promptly disappeared, destined to only grace our screens on re-runs of Reeling In The Years.

Her brand of pasteurised rockabilly-lite may not be my cup of hemlock, but it would appear that people don’t really like her for her music, they like her because she is Imelda, the cheery, chirpy, down-to-earth singer who won’t frighten the cattle or the children.

It was fitting that her first lines in the first episode of the new series of The Imelda May Show were a self-deprecating: “Can you believe they gave me another one?”

The answer to that, of course, is a simple... no. No, I can’t believe they gave you another one, although I’m glad for her that they did.

The problem with the show, which featured Kodaline, The Hot House Flowers and the refreshingly retro electro pop stylings of Fight Like Apes, is not just that it’s unbearably dull. It’s due to the fact that it is based on a show that is also unbearably dull.

Let’s face it, Later... With Jools Holland is the most tedious snooze fest on telly and it has been for several decades.

But while Holland is an undeniably polished presenter, part of May’s charm is the fact that she is obviously an amateur, although she does seem to have learned how to look into the right camera during links, which is at least a sign of progress.

That’s fine as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go very far.

In fact, I look on The Imelda May Show pretty much the same way I approach her music — I’m glad she’s doing it and I wish her well.

I just don’t want to have to listen to it.

Although having said that, Bob Geldof, who refused to include May in his last Bandwagon (sorry, Band Aid) song is a guest tonight and that should add a little frisson to this evening’s episode.

I wouldn’t bet on it, though.

As we approach a strangely muted 70th anniversary of the bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, The Day They Dropped The Bomb was a welcome addition to the schedules.

Featuring archive footage as well as testimony from the surviving members of the bombing crew and the unfortunate souls who were caught in the blast, this was both intriguing and strangely unsatisfying.

It’s always unfair to review a programme for what it wasn’t rather than for what it was. But despite the technical proficiency of the documentary and the undeniable power of the survivors’ accounts, there was little we haven’t seen before.

So here’s the unfair bit — given the fact that we’re already well aware of both the chronology and impact of the attack, why didn’t they explore the morality of the decision to conduct what was essentially a nuclear experiment on a largely civilian population?

After all, most people are united in their revulsion for nuclear weapons, but it is often forgotten that more people died in a conventional fire bombing of Tokyo in one raid the previous month than were killed in either Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Can it ever be morally or ethically justifiable to use the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, even if it will ultimately save lives?

That, frustratingly, was the question that remained loudly unasked and unanswered.

I mentioned Sharknado last Friday and pointed out, quite reasonably I might add, that I hate anyone who likes this hideous franchise.

Oh, and I also mentioned that I hate their loved ones, as well.

Such firmly held convictions are necessary when discussing an issue as important as the scourge of Sharknado and the day that piece appeared the latest, Jedward-infested instalment of this bafflingly popular phenomenon appeared on the small screen.

And, I am both happy and relieved to report, I stand fully validated in my earlier assertions.

Sharknado 3 represents not just an insult to the memory of Open Water, Deep Blue Sea and, obviously, Jaws but it is also a sign of a culture that has simply given up.

Knowing that your movie is shit doesn’t stop it from still being shit and no amount of mugging for the camera and silly, self-deprecating asides can change the fact that this is, to use a technical term known only by ace television reviewers, stoopid beyond belief. It’s also nauseatingly cynical.

I know there are more important things going on in the world than being enraged by a movie featuring Z-listers who want to reanimate their careers. But I really, really hate it.

So there.

Irish Independent

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